By Dr. Scott McLeod and Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti
Read time: 2 minutes
It is a pleasure to be able to share our thoughts in this first-ever special edition of The Messenger, dedicated to addressing racism and discrimination in health care. As white, male, able-bodied, heterosexual descendants of European settlers with stable upbringings, we first want to recognize the considerable privilege we have been afforded. Given our experiences, you may be wondering why we have a voice in this issue. Please bear with us as we explain.
We are honoured to hold leadership roles within Alberta’s healthcare system. As a result, we have a duty to acknowledge the reality that systemic racism and discrimination exists in health care, and use our privileged position to advocate for positive change moving forward. As we recently saw at the CMA Annual General Meeting, the fixation on the old way of doing business can dramatically decrease our chances of advancing new ideas that promote diversity on key leadership boards.
Through profession-led regulation, physicians have a critical responsibility to set behavioural and regulatory expectations for the medical profession. CPSA has adopted the CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism as the guiding document for our profession in Alberta. We urge everyone to read the entire code, but by highlighting even a few clauses below, it is clear racism and discrimination are completely unacceptable within the medical profession.
|Clause C1: Accept the patient without discrimination (such as on the basis of age, disability, gender identity or expression, genetic characteristics, language, marital and family status, medical condition, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status).
Clause C31: Treat your colleagues with dignity and as persons worthy of respect. Colleagues include all learners, health care partners, and members of the health care team.
Clause C43: Commit to collaborative and respectful relationships with Indigenous patients and communities through efforts to understand and implement the recommendations relevant to health care made in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Racism and discrimination are not only unprofessional, but they also lead to decreased quality of care and poor patient outcomes. Unfortunately, the general lack of action over many decades has resulted in the normalization of racist and discriminatory behaviour, which remains all too prevalent in our healthcare system—not to mention the colonial approach to medical regulation as a whole. Therefore, CPSA is dedicated to using our platform to promote change. The first step in our journey has been accepting the reality that systemic racism and discrimination exists. Now, our journey has shifted to learning where we can and should be doing more. CPSA has established two groups, the Indigenous Health Advisory Circle and the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, that will help us do what’s right moving forward. Council members will be involved in each group as it goes through the process of listening to and learning from those with lived experience.
This will be a long journey to which all of us must be open and play an active role. The way to learn is to listen, and we are proud to have this space for physicians, medical learners and partners to share their perspectives on the issues that are most important to them. Each article in this special edition offers a unique lens through which we can engage in critical conversation; we encourage you to read this issue from front to back and give each voice the attention it deserves.
We know we’ll make mistakes along the way, but that will not stop us from doing everything we can to create a better future. As our colleague and contributor to this special edition, Dr. Alika Lafontaine, shared, the status quo “requires the excluded [and] disempowered to fully shoulder the burden of inclusion and change ourselves.”
We call on all physicians in Alberta, especially those in leadership roles, to follow this path with us and help make a difference in any way you possibly can. We cannot allow racism and discrimination to continue in our profession and we’re confident that, together, we can make our collective futures much brighter.
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